As I write this, I'm at a rather low ebb.
A few weeks ago, as regular readers may recall, I underwent surgery on my throat to address an issue I was having with swallowing and choking - as well as an annoying snore. Throughout the course of investigation, it actually turned out to be a more serious issue than I had anticipated, involving the paralysis of one side of my vocal cords. You can recap on the short history here and here.
The objective of the surgery was to create an area of scar tissue that would have the effect splinting my airway open so that it wouldn't flop inwards, particularly when I sleep and thus cause the snore. It was also going to address the problems I've been having with my swallowing which has, in a word, become scarily dysfunctional.
To cut a long story short, that surgery did not have the outcome we were hoping for.
It didn't work.
My swallowing remains dysfunctional and the snore wasn't neutralized. In fact, if anything, it's worse.
I have tried to cajole myself along in the hope that it would all settle down, and once the healing process had run its course, all would be well. But it didn't turn out that way.
So last week, after visiting my surgeon, I had to make a decision.
I was presented with the option of returning to hospital and having a dual procedure that involves removing some of the tissue around my palate. This includes the uvula - that dangling, tear drop shaped piece of flesh that hangs down from the roof of the mouth and swings back and forth. The effect of this palatal flap surgery will be that it will open that section of the airway up and reduce amount of negative pressure that can be exerted on it when I sleep. Simply put, it won't vibrate and therefore I won't snore.
The second part of the procedure is the trickier proposition. It involves going back to the area of my vocal cords that has been affected by the paralysed nerve supplying that region of my throat and removing the bone that anchors my right vocal cord. This is called the arytenoid bone. By removing it and applying the laser to that area of the throat, it will widen the airway as well as strengthen it by deliberately forming scar tissue. It will prevent food and fluid from entering that area of my airway that was sneaking in underneath the epiglottis. That's the flap of tissue that closes over my airway during swallowing and prevents food and fluid from falling into my airway.
This is happening this week - this Friday.
The trade off?
I have to face the fact that this surgery will have a profound and permanent effect on my voice and my ability to speak.
It has come to that because of the dysfunctional nerve that supplies my voice box. It won't recover from the viral neuritis that has affected it and so, what is being done now amounts to damage control. And I've chosen this route because - basically - I don't want to choke to death in my sleep because of some small fragments of food and fluid that has snuck into my airway.
I will require therapy afterwards to kinda retrain my throat and the muscles in it to adapt to this more extensive surgery. So I expect my recovery to be a lot more complicated.
But to sacrifice my speech...
Our voice is everything. It is a key part of who we are and without it, how are we to express ourselves?
I've been thinking a lot about this over the past week. Of course, expression and communication in this written or text form is so much a part of who I am & so I don't doubt that I will continue to express myself in this fashion.
But, expression and communication is much more than simply words on a page.
It's conversation. It's interaction with others. It's expressing ideas. It's singing shitty pop songs in a moment of abandon - either alone or in the presence of others. It's talking on the phone to loved ones far away.
It's reading stories to my children.
I've been thinking about that one a lot. I remember a promise I may to my daughter recently that I would re-read to her The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. I used to read it to her when she was first born as a way of getting her used to my voice. She always loved hearing me recount that.
What am I going to be without my voice?